Teacher Bonuses are Another Failed Scheme from New York

Save Our Schools has accused the Prime Minister of adopting another failed reform from her ‘hero’ from New York, former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. Trevor Cobbold, National Convenor of SOS, said that the research evidence shows that bonuses do not improve student results and will be a huge waste of money.

“This is yet another failed scheme that Julia Gillard has copied from her ‘hero’ Joel Klein, former Schools Chancellor of New York City. Klein left a legacy of failed school reforms which the Prime Minister has failed to learn from. Klein’s teacher bonus scheme was a dramatic failure as will be Gillard’s.

Mr. Cobbold said that a study published last March by Harvard University economist, Roland Fryer, found that the New York teacher bonus scheme failed to increase student achievement. Fryer said in the abstract to the paper:

I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behaviour. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools.

The study concludes:

Providing incentives to teachers based on school’s performance on metrics involving student achievement, improvement, and the learning environment did not increase student achievement in any statistically meaningful way. If anything, student achievement declined. [p.5]

Mr. Cobbold said that the weight of research evidence is that teacher performance bonuses do not improve student results.

“Yet again, faith has ruled over evidence in the formulation of education policy by the Prime Minister.

“The most recent studies show that teacher bonuses have no effect on student achievement. Students in schools participating in teacher performance bonus programs do no better than students in schools not participating in such programs.

“Evaluation studies of four of the most significant teacher performance pay programs in the US that cash bonus for teachers do not improve student results. These programs operate in Iowa and Texas and in the Chicago and Denver school districts.

“A policy brief prepared for President Obama by the RAND Corporation in 2009 found there is insufficient evidence to support claims that teacher performance bonuses will improve achievement in the United States.”

“Cash bonuses for teachers will only encourage more teaching to the test and artificial inflation of test scores.

“These funds would have been better committed to reducing the vast achievement gap between rich and poor students in Australia by being directed to schools with high levels of learning needs.”

Trevor Cobbold

For the evaluation of the New York scheme see:
Roland G. Fryer, Teacher Incentives and Student Achievement: Evidence from New York City Public Schools, Working Paper No. 16850, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Mass, March 2011.

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